Washington, Dec 3: Refuting common misconceptions that today's carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are a problem only for the future generations, researchers have found that a single carbon emission takes only about 10 years to reach its maximum effect.
The findings suggest that action taken today to avoid emissions would be felt within the lifetimes of the people who acted, not just by future generations.
"CO2 emissions cause global temperatures to increase for about a decade, but then temperatures stay high for a long time," said Ken Caldeira from the Carnegie Institution for Science in the US.
"This means if we avoid an emission, we avoid heating that would otherwise occur this decade. This will benefit us and not just our grandchildren," Caldeira added.
The authors, however, noted that while the warming caused by a single emission reaches a maximum quickly, damage caused by this warming can play out over longer periods, leading to sea level rise and also causing harm to ecosystems.
For the study, the researchers combined the results from two large modelling studies - one about the way carbon emissions interact with the global carbon cycle and one about the effect of carbon on the Earth's climate used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
The study appeared in the journal Environmental Research Letters.